Population ecologists tend to focus on a single species, and what elements (e.g. food abundance, predation) affect growth and reproduction. On the other end of the spectrum, community ecologists focus on how the ecosystem functions as a whole. Individual variation and population dynamics are often overlooked in community and ecosystem ecology. My research strives to unify population and community approaches in order to understand a population within its community. It aims to help predict changes in population demography by understanding mechanisms governing life-history dynamics.
Ecologists commonly use size distribution data to tie individuals and populations to community-level functions. Size-based field analysis has been used in aquatic field studies since the early 1960s when zooplankton size-distributions were measured. The linkages between body size, physiology, and their implications in ecology was developed by Kerr (1974) and has since been used in empirical work to connect the individual to the ecosystem. While body size seems to be more informative in these studies than species identity, there is still ongoing discussion about what the relative effects species identity and body size may play in community structure.